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The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services is the head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, concerned with health matters. The Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet. The office was formerly Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

In 1979, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services, and its education functions transferred to the new Department of Education. Patricia Roberts Harris headed the department before and after it was renamed.

The duties of the secretary revolve around human conditions and concerns in the United Statesmarker. This includes advising the President on matters of health, welfare, and income security programs. It strives to administer the department of Health and Human Services to carry out approved programs and make the public aware of the objectives of the department.

Nominations to the office of Secretary of HHS are referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, before confirmation is considered by the full United States Senate.

After the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, the position has held a unique significance in the War on Terrorism. Upon his departure, then-Secretary Tommy Thompson remarked "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do..." Scholars concur, arguing that an attack on food (particularly milk) could affect approximately 100,000 people.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as Secretary of Health and Human Services by the United States Senate on April 29, 2009.

Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare

No. Name Portrait State of residence Took Office Left Office President served under Notes
1 Oveta Culp Hobby Texasmarker April 11, 1953 July 31, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 Marion B. Folsom New Yorkmarker August 2, 1955 July 31, 1958
3 Arthur S. Flemming Ohiomarker August 1, 1958 January 19, 1961
4 Abraham A. Ribicoff Connecticutmarker January 21, 1961 July 13, 1962 John F. Kennedy
5 Anthony J. Celebrezze Ohiomarker July 31, 1962 August 17, 1965
Lyndon Johnson
6 John W. Gardner New Yorkmarker August 18, 1965 March 1, 1968
7 Wilbur J. Cohen Marylandmarker May 16, 1968 January 20, 1969
8 Robert Finch Californiamarker January 21, 1969 June 23, 1970 Richard Nixon
9 Elliot Richardson Massachusettsmarker June 24, 1970 January 29, 1973
10 Caspar Weinberger Californiamarker February 12, 1973 August 8, 1975
Gerald Ford
11 David Mathews Alabamamarker August 8, 1975 January 20, 1977
12 Joseph Califano Washington, D.C.marker January 25, 1977 August 3, 1979 Jimmy Carter
13 Patricia R. Harris Washington, D.C.marker August 3, 1979 January 20, 1981 Harris was Secretary when the department's name changed. She was also the first African-American woman to hold an ambassadorship and a cabinet position


Secretaries of Health and Human Services

No. Name Portrait State of residence Took Office Left Office President served under Notable for
13 Patricia R. Harris Washington, D.C.marker August 3, 1979 January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter Harris was Secretary when the department's name changed. She was also the first African-American woman to hold an ambassadorship and a cabinet position
14 Richard Schweiker Pennsylvaniamarker January 22, 1981 February 3, 1983 Ronald Reagan
15 Margaret Heckler Massachusettsmarker March 9, 1983 December 13, 1985
16 Otis R. Bowen Indianamarker December 13, 1985 January 20, 1989 The first physician to become Secretary of Health and Human Services
17 Louis W. Sullivan Georgiamarker March 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
18 Donna Shalala Wisconsinmarker January 22, 1993 January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton The first Arab-American Secretary of Health and Human Services
19 Tommy Thompson Wisconsinmarker February 2, 2001 January 26, 2005 George W. Bush
20 Mike Leavitt Utahmarker January 26, 2005 January 20, 2009
21 Kathleen Sebelius Kansasmarker April 28, 2009 Present Barack Obama


Living former secretaries

Health, Education, and Welfare



Health and Human Services



References

  1. United States Department of Health and Human Services-Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
  2. Harris was Secretary on May 4, 1980, when the office changed names from Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to Secretary of Health and Human Services. Because the department merely changed names, she did not need to be confirmed again, and her term continued uninterrupted.


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